The Biodiversity Heritage Library has released an Acknowledgment of Harmful Content to recognize deep prejudices within some of the pages of its collection. As a digital library of natural science publications and archival materials, BHL is a free and open access online resource that primarily reflects the print collections of its contributors. Some of the content in BHL is harmful because it reflects ableist, classist, colonialist, eurocentrist, racist, sexist, xenophobic, and other biased views, especially in descriptions of peoples, lands, and species. The long and, at times, painful history of the scientific record has privileged hegemonic perspectives with the right to print while stifling the voices of the powerless.
BHL joins recent global outcries against racial and environmental injustice. We are assessing our role as a digital library and the responsibility we have to question our neutrality and address harm without reducing access. We are deeply concerned about the continuing crisis of global species loss and the inequitable divisions within our own species. Reflecting on ourselves, we see an organization grappling with inclusion and the acute consequences that these harmful views have on the world and its people today.